Three on a Match

Last updated
Three on a Match (1932)
ThreeOnAMatch.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Produced by
Screenplay by Lucien Hubbard
Story by
Starring
Music by Leo F. Forbstein
Ray Heindorf
Cinematography Sol Polito
Edited byRay Curtiss
Production
company
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • October 29, 1932 (1932-10-29)(US)
Running time
63 mins.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

Three on a Match is a 1932 American pre-Code crime drama released by Warner Bros. The film was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and stars Joan Blondell, Warren William, Ann Dvorak and Bette Davis. The film also features Lyle Talbot, Humphrey Bogart, Allen Jenkins and Edward Arnold. [1]

Contents

Plot

Three women who went to the same elementary school, Mary (Joan Blondell), Ruth (Bette Davis), and Vivian (Ann Dvorak), meet again as young adults after some time apart. They each light a cigarette from the same match and discuss the superstition that such an act is unlucky and that Vivian, the last to light her cigarette, will be the first to die.

Mary is a show girl who has established stability in her life after spending some time in a reform school, while Ruth works as a stenographer. Vivian is the best off of the three, married to successful lawyer Robert Kirkwood (Warren William) and with a young son Robert Jr. (Buster Phelps), but she has grown dissatisfied with her life. Just before she is about to leave on an ocean cruiser with her son, Mary comes along with two men going to a party on the ship, before it leaves. Gambler Michael Loftus (Lyle Talbot) one of the two men flirts around with Vivian and persuades her to run away with him.

Vivian and Michael Loftus run a very shabby life, so that Mary concerned about Vivian's neglect of her son, tells Robert (nearly mad about the disappearance of his son) where to find his boy. Mary and Ruth are very fond of Junior so that Robert proposes to Mary and hires Ruth to look after the child. Mary and Robert marry the same day his divorce from Vivian becomes final.

Meanwhile, Vivian's money runs out and Michael owes $2,000 to gangster Ace (Edward Arnold), who tells him to pay up or else. Desperate, Michael tries to blackmail Robert by threatening to inform the press about Mary's criminal background. When that does not work (as Robert is already aware of Mary's checkered past), he kidnaps Robert's boy. Henchman Harve (Humphrey Bogart) has no fear of Vivian, who is now a hopeless drug addict, desperate for a fix. However, shaking with fear, she scrawls a message in lipstick on her nightgown and throws herself through the window of the fourth-floor apartment where she and her son are being held, leading to the child's rescue.

Cast

Production

Dvorak was the last of the four principal actors to be cast. [2] This was Bogart's first appearance as a hoodlum type, although his work in Midnight (released 1934) preceded this role and led to his being cast by LeRoy. [3]

Filming took place in June 1932. [4]

When this film was released in October 1932, the Lindbergh kidnapping was very much in the news and the kidnappers had not yet been caught. The kidnapping of a child in the story raised concerns with censors, but Jason Joy of the Studio Relations Committee [lower-alpha 1] successfully made a case for the film to the censors in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. [5]

Joan Blondell in a banned 1932 promotional publicity photo for the film Three on a Match Joan Blondell banned 1932 publicity photo.jpg
Joan Blondell in a banned 1932 promotional publicity photo for the film Three on a Match

Promotion

Joan Blondell posed for a 1932 promotional publicity photo for the film which was later banned under the Motion Picture Production Code.

Reception

Three on a Match received tepid to poor notices overall. [4] [6] Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times called Three on a Match "tedious and distasteful" as well as "unintelligent". [7] The Time reviewer felt the film did not carry much weight, unlike previous Glasmon–Bright productions, [lower-alpha 2] and that the suicide at the end was more implausible than tragic. [8] Kaspar Monahan of the Pittsburgh Press thought that it began with the hope of being "different" but ultimately devolved into a "gangster yarn" and summarized: "Direction good for the most part; acting as good as can be expected under the circumstances; story erratic." [9]

The Spokane Spokesman-Review expressed admiration for the way the passage of time is shown through several montage sequences, calling it "a brand new approach and treatment ..." and commented that the film "rang true". [10]

Trade paper reviews advised exhibitors to focus on the cast: "An attractive cast array is the attendance motive for this picture which is surprising in its meager demands upon its quartet of featured people" was the opening comment of Variety 's Sid Silverman. [11] The Film Daily review, too, said the "cast helps" with a plot that has "too many turns". [12] The Motion Picture Herald also advised exhibitors to focus on the "strength of the cast names" and not to even use the word "kidnaping" or allude to it in promotions. [13]

Decades after its release, the film found more favor with critics and film historians. In 1969, William K. Everson called it "unusually carefully-made" and wrote, "Splendidly cut and paced ... and climaxed by a real shocker, Three on a Match is still a vivid little picture". [14] Wheeler Winston Dixon observed, "the film is astonishing for the amount of information that LeRoy manages to compress into this lightning fast tale". [15] It has been pointed to as Dvorak's best performance for Warners. [16]

Leonard Maltin gives the film three out of four stars, describing it as a “Fine, fast-moving (and surprisingly potent) pre-Code melodrama of three girls who renew childhood friendship, only to find suspense and tragedy. Dvorak is simply marvelous.” [17]

In 1938 Warner Bros. released Broadway Musketeers , a remake of Three on a Match. [18]

Related Research Articles

Humphrey Bogart American actor

Humphrey DeForest Bogart was an American film and stage actor. His performances in Classical Hollywood cinema films made him an American cultural icon. In 1999, the American Film Institute selected Bogart as the greatest male star of classic American cinema.

<i>Dark Victory</i> 1939 film

Dark Victory is a 1939 American drama film directed by Edmund Goulding, starring Bette Davis and featuring George Brent, Humphrey Bogart, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Ronald Reagan, Henry Travers and Cora Witherspoon. The screenplay by Casey Robinson was based on the 1934 play of the same title by George Brewer and Bertram Bloch, starring Tallulah Bankhead.

The year 1942 in film involved some significant events, in particular the release of a film consistently rated as one of the greatest of all time, Casablanca.

The following is an overview of 1932 in film, including significant events, a list of films released and notable births and deaths.

Lauren Bacall American actress

Lauren Bacall was an American actress known for her distinctive voice and sultry looks. She was named the 20th-greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema by the American Film Institute and received an Academy Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2009 "in recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures".

<i>Marked Woman</i> 1937 film directed by Lloyd Bacon

Marked Woman is a 1937 American dramatic crime film released by Warner Bros. It was directed by Lloyd Bacon, and stars Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart, with featured performances by Lola Lane, Isabel Jewell, Rosalind Marquis, Mayo Methot, Jane Bryan, Eduardo Ciannelli, and Allen Jenkins. Set in the underworld of Manhattan, Marked Woman tells the story of a woman who dares to stand up to one of the city's most powerful gangsters.

George Brent Irish-American actor

George Brent was an Irish-American stage, film, and television actor.

Ann Dvorak American actress

Ann Dvorak was an American stage and film actress.

Elwood Dager Cromwell, known as John Cromwell, was an American film and stage director and actor. His films spanned the early days of sound to 1950s film noir, when his directing career was cut short by the Hollywood blacklist.

Margaret Lindsay American film actress

Margaret Lindsay was an American film actress. Her time as a Warner Bros. contract player during the 1930s was particularly productive. She was noted for her supporting work in successful films of the 1930s and 1940s such as Jezebel (1938) and Scarlet Street (1945) and her leading roles in lower-budgeted B movie films such as the Ellery Queen series at Columbia in the early 1940s. Critics regard her portrayal of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Hepzibah Pyncheon in the 1940 film adaptation of The House of the Seven Gables as Lindsay's standout career role.

Lyle Talbot American actor

Lyle Talbot was an American actor on stage and screen, known for his career in film from 1931 to 1960 and for his appearances on television in the 1950s and 1960s. He played Ozzie Nelson's friend and neighbor, Joe Randolph, for ten years in the ABC sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

The 27th Academy Awards honored the best films released in 1954. The Best Picture winner, On the Waterfront, was produced by Sam Spiegel and directed by Elia Kazan. It had twelve nominations and eight wins, matching two other films, Gone with the Wind (1939) and From Here to Eternity (1953), though those each had thirteen nominations.

<i>The Old Maid</i> (1939 film) 1939 film by Edmund Goulding

The Old Maid is a 1939 American drama film directed by Edmund Goulding. The screenplay by Casey Robinson is based on the 1935 Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by Zoë Akins, which was adapted from the 1924 Edith Wharton novella The Old Maid: the Fifties.

Julie Bishop (actress) American film and television actress

Julie Bishop, previously known as Jacqueline Wells, was an American film and television actress. She appeared in more than 80 films between 1923 and 1957.

Genevieve Tobin American actress (1899-1995)

Genevieve Tobin was an American actress.

<i>Stand-In</i> 1937 American film directed by Tay Garnett

Stand-In is a 1937 American comedy film, directed by Tay Garnett and starring Leslie Howard, Joan Blondell and Humphrey Bogart. The picture was produced by the independent Walter Wanger, and released by United Artists. It is set in Hollywood and parodies many aspects of the film industry during the Classical Era.

<i>The Man Who Came to Dinner</i> (1942 film) 1942 film by William Keighley

The Man Who Came to Dinner is a 1942 American comedy film directed by William Keighley, and starring Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan and Monty Woolley as the title character. The screenplay by Julius and Philip G. Epstein is based on the 1939 play The Man Who Came to Dinner by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. The supporting cast features Jimmy Durante and Billie Burke.

<i>Housewife</i> (film) 1934 film by Alfred E. Green

Housewife is a 1934 American drama film directed by Alfred E. Green and starring George Brent, Bette Davis and Ann Dvorak. The screenplay by Manuel Seff and Lillie Hayward is based on a story by Hayward and Robert Lord.

Broadway's Like That (1929) is a 10-minute Vitaphone short film starring Ruth Etting, with Joan Blondell, Humphrey Bogart and Mary Philips. Bogart and Philips were married at the time of this film.

Adrian Morris (actor) American actor

Adrian Michael Morris was an American actor of stage and film, and a younger brother of Chester Morris.

References

Informational notes

  1. The arm of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America tasked with implementing the Hays Code
  2. e.g., The Public Enemy (1931)

Citations

  1. "Three on a Match]". Turner Classic Movies . Atlanta: Turner Broadcasting System (Time Warner). Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  2. Ralph Wilk (May 27, 1932). "A Little from the 'Lots'". The Film Daily . LIX (49): 7. Retrieved 2015-10-15 via Internet Archive.
  3. Richard Schickel (2006). Bogie: A Celebration of the Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart. St. Martin's Press. p. 99. ISBN   978-0-312-36629-2.
  4. 1 2 Christina Rice (2013). Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 83–84, 88. ISBN   978-0-8131-4440-5.
  5. Ruth Vasey (1997). The World According to Hollywood, 1918–1939. Univ of Wisconsin Press. p. 110. ISBN   978-0-299-15194-2.
  6. Jeff Stafford. "Three on a Match (1932)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  7. Mordaunt Hall (October 29, 1932). "Blackmail and Kidnapping". New York Times . Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  8. "Cinema: The New Pictures: Nov. 7, 1932", Time . (subscription required)
  9. Kaspar Monahan (November 4, 1932). "The Show Stops". The Pittsburgh Press . p. 48. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  10. "Ann Dvorak Star in Film at Fox". The Spokesman-Review . November 17, 1932. p. 5. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
  11. Sid Silverman (November 1, 1932). "Three on a Match". Film Reviews. Variety . 108 (8): 12. Retrieved 2015-10-17 via Internet Archive.
  12. "Three on a Match". The Film Daily. LX (102): 6. October 29, 1932. Retrieved 2015-10-17 via Internet Archive.
  13. "Three on a Match". Showmen's Reviews. Motion Picture Herald . 109 (1): 52–53. October 1, 1932. Retrieved 2015-10-17 via Internet Archive.
  14. William K. Everson (February 21, 1969). "Program Notes: 'Three on a Match'" (PDF). William K. Everson Archive. New York University. Retrieved 2015-10-18.
  15. Wheeler Winston Dixon (2013). "Precursors to Film Noir". In Andre Spicer; Helen Hanson (eds.). A Companion to Film Noir. John Wiley & Sons. p. 100. ISBN   978-1-118-52371-1.
  16. Ray Hagen; Laura Wagner (2004). Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Film Dames. McFarland. p. 54. ISBN   978-0-7864-8073-9.
  17. "Three on a Match (1932) - Overview - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  18. "Broadway Musketeers". Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute . Retrieved 2015-10-17.